Saratoga, California, USA
Aug 31, 2004
"The Birthday Show"
95 Minutes...Played Straight Through With No Break Between Songs For Encore
A Wonderful Recording By Andy Boy(Neumann Kmf4>Denecke Ps2>Modified D8)
W/O Any Real Crowd Intrusion Except During "Satisfied" - It Amazes Me
How People Can Discuss Wine Tasting During A Concert!
Inarticulate Speech of The Heart #1
All Work and No Play
Only a Dream
Whinin' Boy Moan
Days Like This
Don't Worry About a Thing
Sometimes We Cry w/Shanna Morrison
Walkin' My Baby Back Home
Early in the Morning
Once In A Blue Moon
In the Afternoon /happy birthday (audience refrain)> Ancient Highway >
> Big Joe Turner> Danny Boy (sax)> Country Fair > Level 2, 3, etc. > Get on Up
Jackie Wilson Said
All in the Game
Moondance (with Jules Broussard on 2 saxes at once -- shades of
Roland Kirk --, and Jules' trombone player)
Richard Dunn, Ned Edwards, David Hayes, Matt Holland, Bobby Irwin, Martin Winning
Guests: Shana Morrison & Jules Broussard (sax)
During "In The Afternoon", Martin Winning snuck a little "happy
birthday" into his solo, and the crowd started a little syncopated "Happy
Birthday to you" during the part where Van does his little walkaround over
to the horn section.
The Happy Birthday chorus started in the bleachers and seemed to
spread through a lot of the crowd. Van didn't really acknowledge it,
but I think he was noticeably relaxed and fairly animated (for him)
afterwards. He did crack a smile after Martin worked the song into
the end of his saxaphone solo earlier in the song.
Some other interesting moments - Van flubbed the beginning of Game,
opening with the second verse. Then, when the horns started to come
in, he got very confused, realized what had happened, and said, "I'm
going to start over now," and went right into "Many a tear has to
fall...." Shana came out and did Sometimes We Cry with him. On
Moondance, Jules Broussard (leader of the opening act; I seem to
recall that he played on one of Van's early albums) and his trombone
player joined the horn section. Broussard played 2 tenor saxaphones
at one time! Yes, it was hokey - but fun. He also seemed to be able
to hold one loud note in his solo (circular breathing, perhaps?) for
over a minute (or a hell of a long time anyway).
All in all, a memorable show. A beautiful, intimate venue. Good
sound. Breathtaking ticket prices. The weird starting time (4 PM on a
Tuesday afternoon) meant much of the audience was perspiring and
squinting into the sun until the shadows slowly moved back, row by
row. Van was in great voice and good spirits. This band has gotten
comfortable with each other over the years, but it will never be one
of my favorites. Somebody said it was the show band he's always
wanted. That sounds right. There's nobody in it that threatens to
overshadow him - ever.
The end of Gloria was pretty much about 90 minutes on the dot. The
audience was on its feet clamoring for more (it was 6:30 in the
evening, after all), and people didn't really start giving up on the
encore idea and start leaving en masse until the roadies had taken
almost the entire set apart.
Great venue! Excellent show!
First of all there is something quite serene and mellowing about sitting in
a venue way above Silicon Valley-- with grapes everywhere and the hot summer
sun's merciless eye overlooking the proceedings. The small outdoor theatre
at the Paul Masson winery is, well, quite small. Indeed, if one were to
look up the word intimate in the dictionary it would not be all that
surprising to discover a picture of this small venue. Imagine a nightclub
with no roof and you have an idea of how intimate this venue is.
The show . well, it was by no means the best Van performance I have ever
seen - and I have seen more than I care to admit - but I must say it had to
have been the most fun show I have ever seen. Was it the odor of plastic
cups filled with fermented grapes or the sweet smoke of California's finest
weed wafting through the air (resulting in that concert standard-the contact
high)? Not sure . but the mood of the crowd was giddy and excited-- drunk
on love of music - and it was infectious. I was, quite honestly, despite my
critical edge of late, reduced to smiles and an there was an extra hop in my
step throughout most of the show.
Of course-- it was Van's birthday, and it seemed fairly obvious that most of
the crowd knew this.
The band, the usual suspects of late (except for a percussionist, who Dr.
Boom said was right out of The Sopranos -- not sure who he was), opened with
a touch of "Inarticulate Speech of the Heart." Nice. Mellow. The sun was
still frying our side of the venue. Troy from KVAN, who I was sitting next
to, was adjusting the angle of his, what I will call, visual preservation
device. Van joined the band and played a little sax to complement the
fading melody of "Inarticulate Speech" and then tooted his way through
reasonable runs of "All Work and No Play" and "Only a Dream." Not my
favorite songs, not my favorite record, but there was that infectious
something in the air that melted my picky expectations. My toes were
tapping overtime. "Satisfied," despite a great "organ grinder jam" from
John Allair fell a bit flat. Van didn't stretch it out very far and I
sensed that the band was not comfortable finding the necessary funk that the
song cries out to express. "Raincheck" also seemed a bit strained, though
Van's voice was undeniably in great shape.
"Whinin' Boy Moan" was a hopping, finger snapping treat, however. Then the
inevitable "Days Like This," a song I have grown a bit weary of hearing
(though the crowd was more than pleased to hear it) entered the set.
Though, in retrospect, I must say that I wished there were more days like
yesterday! After that little ditty, Van brought the swing of "Don't Worry
About a Thing" into the mix. There go those hopping toes again! Fun song
and fun performance.
At this point the show's energy really turned a corner. Van invited Shana
to the stage for a duet of "Sometimes We Cry." Yow! what a version and how
curiously delicious to have such a beaming smile during a song about being
sad and crying. The band sounded perfect. Shana's voice, which I have
always liked, sounds even more amazing these days-and the duet was perfect.
The highlight of the set!
Another toe tapper "Walkin' My Baby Home" was up next-followed by another
one of Van's many cranky, fame sucks opuses: "Fame." "Choppin' Wood" had a
nice edge to it and "Early in the Mornin'" was solid with great vocals by
Van. Though Ned's guitar playing is still not up to the abilities of the
great guitarists of previous tours (John Plantania, Chris Michie, Ronnie
Johnson, and Johnny Scott to name a few).
The seemingly ever-present sun, diligently watching over the proceedings,
punctuated the lilting melody of "In the Afternoon." Martin Winning added a
little riff of "Happy Birthday" to his solo. The crowd cheered and Morrison
laughed. As Van played his sax and circled the stage, the crowd, keeping to
the melody, sang "Happy Birthday To You." A very, very nice moment I must
"Jackie Wilson Said" was sung with great enthusiasm by Van-and the horn
section had a great time with it. "Stop Drinking" had a bounce and hop to
it that got those toes tapping yet again. "All in the Game" is always a
pleasure to hear. Was it a definitive version? Probably not-but by this
time that same uncontrollable infectious delirium that had captured the
crowd had already infected me. I was grinning like a sheepish teenager on
prom night. "Precious Time" was up next. This is a song that I wish was
never written, recorded, or performed-but at this point, my evil critical
powers had been neutralized and all I could do was smile-and, yes, yet
again, tap my toes.
For "Moondance," Van invited Jules Broussard and Jules' trombone player,
whose name I don't know, to the stage. Broussard played two saxes at once
and included some very interesting chicken noises. The band locked into a
solid groove and the crowd was particularly ecstatic. The show concluded
with a raucous romp through "Gloria." After Van left the stage, Broussard
unleashed a long sustained squonk on the sax that reverberated through the
entire venue (and my ears!). What a sax player! I wish he would hook up
with Van again (Jules played sax on the albums Saint Dominic's Preview and
Hardnose the Highway).
That was it - no encores - though the crowd clapped, cheered and hooted for
quite some time.
I had a hard time not smiling as I exited the venue.
A small group of us gathered at the picnic tables to discuss the show (Art
and Carol, Chris Bradford and his wife Margaret, Raymond Sohn, Dr. Boom,
Troy of KVAN, Robert Schwartz, and others, whose names I have forgotten - my
apologies) and then we went to Chris Bradford's house to drink beer, eat
pizza, and watch the results of Troy's visual preservation of the show.
All in all - I wonder if the tapes of the show will catch how much fun it
was to be there. There was something about the setting and the crowd that
added an extra something, an extra oomph to the proceedings.